This morning [Valentine’s Day, 2017] I’ve had “gender equity” on my mind. While some call it a Hallmark day and others discuss the day’s historical origins (e.g., like many holidays, celebrations like this stem waaaaay back, to pre-Christian times- super interesting, that!), many folks simply share greetings, commiserations, candy, and cards and leave it at that. Along the latter lines here, I’ve been thinking about the implicit messages embedded in the “typical” or “modern” greetings shared today and am wondering about whether these messages might add one more needle onto the “gender bias haystack.”
I’ve been thinking about that haystack a lot lately, as you can see in a couple of my more recent posts (e.g., “Why I’m Playing the Woman Card” and “Cutting Along the Bias”) and it creeps up in older posts too. So while today I actually don’t want to go too far down the “down on Valentines Day” path, I DO want to think more, like Phyllis Fagell, about “How to raise empowered women” by starting with girls.
Earlier today I joined the #Valentines thread with the following tweet: “Roses are red, violets are blue, what can you do … to promote gender equity? Let’s call it “empower a girl day.” And on my companion facebook page I shared an idea I’ve been mulling over, that I want to share here too, as I have a different following here, than in my other social media spheres.
Phyllis Fagell’s ideas are great: here’s a paraphrase of her key points. She encourages parents to remind their daughters to …
…focus on performance goals rather than relationships
… avoid making unhealthy attributions to errors or failures, and encourage them to use an incremental/malleable mindset (my paraphrase of her intent), as I discuss in several posts here
… connect with mentors
… manage their money
… strive for self care
…stand up for themselves
… set their own goals rather than letter others define them
The idea’s I’ve been thinking about gathering into a more formal project form take the statements above (noting that the connections here are serendipitous: I’ve been mulling this over for weeks, and was delighted to see the connection here this morning) make them more action-oriented.
I’m thinking about starting up what I am calling a “girls’ salon” My intent: to teach girls about gender bias and sexism, and to talk with them about things they can do to mitigate against it in their own lives. That is, I want them to understand the history of gender discrimination with a series of case studies, and after each case, have a discussion centered on direct steps girls can take in their own lives to prevent the perpetuation of …[fill in the blanks with what happened in the case we just reviewed.] I’m envisioning a sort of book group like atmosphere, but haven’t decided whether the girls would read before, or whether I would do an age-appropriate presentation. My distal goal would be to help shape their identities by helping them take concrete steps in their day to day lives that together add up to a sense of empowerment. The proximal goals will be do-able words and actions that fit into their daily lives.
The girls I know well are in elementary and middle school, and I know that each of them have already experienced bias to varying degrees. So while Phyllis Fagle recommends starting in Middle School, I’m really thinking about starting younger. After all, gender identity starts to form in preschool, as self-concept becomes a category of knowledge in developing human’s minds. Very young children receive messages about gender roles from many aspects of their lives. If young girls start early, in their self concept and identity forming process to think of themselves in empowered terms, then I think there’s hope for seeing societal improvements in our life-times.
With all this in mind, I have some questions for you all:
(1) Do you do anything like this with school-aged girls? If so, would you mind sharing a little about your method or experience?
(2) In what ways do you see girls in your community most affected by bias? I could share a handful of experiences my daughter has had, in her 10-years of life, but want to hear from you, too.
(3) Do girls you know ever bring bias up in conversation? (Mine does, but I’ve primed her)
(4) Is a salon like this something you’d like your daughter to participate in? Why or why not?
(5) A follower of my companion facebook page remarked that to effect real meaningful change, a similar group should happen for boys too. So, along those lines, I’d also like to hear about what you do with boys, to help them internalize appropriate behaviors, related to promoting gender equity.
Please share your thoughts to any or all of the prompts, or just generally, too. I would love to know what’s on your mind, today.
A smattering of related posts I found, as I prepped my post: